ChurchETHOS

Are You A Public Christian? Please Say No.

Posted in uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on December 17, 2005

I don’t talk a lot about my political views. I am a Pastor who happens to have a lot of conservative ideas. In fact, my faith has a lot to do with what I think politically. Some church leaders are very active in the political process because they have a desire to curb the tendency towards immorality that is increasingly apparent in our government. I am mildly involved and I stand for my convictions. I vote my values, etc. I think it’s great to be politically involved as long as the message we send is about what we stand FOR more than what we stand AGAINST.

Let me begin by saying, there are two ways that our culture sees Christians. The first, and most public way, is through CNN and MSNBC and other media sources. For years now I have been unable to articulate my loathing of how the Southern Baptist Convention conducts business. We pass resolutions to boycott such and such, and let it further be resolved that we collectively do not tolerate so and so, and be it further resolved that we show disdain for this and that, and be it further resolved that et cetera and et cetera. For conservative evangelicals like myself, even our stand against immorality is seen as judgmental and, you guessed it, intolerant.

The liberal side of Christianity can’t be respected in the eyes of the media either. With all of the churches that are now ordaining homosexual clergy, discrediting the authority of the Bible, and espousing other such dangerous liberal ideals, there is no way to see any difference between the church and everyone else. Paul saying he wanted to become all things to all people had nothing to do with rejecting the truths of God’s Word and becoming just as sinful as the rest of the world so that he might be able to bring someone to Christ. So the failure of the liberal Christians is that they collectively reveal to the world that we don’t really stand for anything, and the failure of the conservative Christians is that they collectively reveal to the world that we only stand against things.

You may disagree with that last sentence, but it’s not up for debate. I am talking about the way Christians are perceived by the general public. While Christians in other nations are being stoned and flogged, Christians in America are simply marginalized and ignored which I believe is worse. The plight of Christianity in America is that we can’t be taken seriously (thanks liberals) and we are too judgmental (thanks conservatives).

But I mentioned a second perception of Christians by today’s culture. Most Christians actually live in the real world. We hold jobs. We become government leaders, educators, doctors, mechanics, and students. This second perception is the individual, or personal, rather than the collective, or public, perception. Again, there are two camps that determine our influence on culture in this more personal way. This time, liberal or conservative theology has nothing to do with it. Instead, those who live a Christian life on purpose are contrasted with those who never talk to their co-workers, classmates, friends, and family about God. Regardless of what CNN says about Christians, there are actually some genuine followers of Christ out there who are helping people see, one at a time, that the Bible contains Truth and that God loves them. It’s time that more people in today’s culture saw authentic Christianity being displayed in front of them in their very own workplaces, classrooms, and neighborhoods.

What will happen when we get to the point in our country where there is no societal benefit to being a Christian, even in the buckle of the Bible Belt? What about when it becomes dangerous to be a Christian in America? What voice would a Christian then have in this country? Would it be through the power and might of a mammoth convention? Hardly. The only voice we would have in that day would be the personal, visible faith of an authentic follower of Christ. Is American Christianity ready for that day? Few Christians are. Maybe we should put aside our public voice, which is misquoted and misunderstood today and tomorrow may be silenced, and begin practicing the personal voice of Christianity as if that day of persecution were already here.

We need to vote for our values. We need to have a voice in Washington. We need to mobilize Christians to be politically active. Let’s do all of that and maybe delay some of the immorality that is springing up all around us, but let’s do it because it is our individual responsibility as a Christian to do so, not as if we are shaking our finger at the evils of society. Our next door neighbors need to hear that we love them and that God loves them, but all they hear about Christianity is what the media tells them (what we stand against and that we don’t stand very effectively FOR anything). We are discredited because most Christians aren’t living a life that is personally devoted to God, but are living a life that is publicly judgmental to the world. Christians have been looking down their noses at the world, albeit through God’s eyes and through Biblical worldview spectacles, but what is that to someone with a different worldview and a different philosophy of life?

To discover the first step to take, we need to know what direction to go. I believe the direction Christians must go is towards a personal, visible, authentic, transformed, and Biblically informed approach to influence. The first step, then, is not to crash the systems and the conventions and the organizations and traditions of Christianity. As much as I love to vent and to rage against the machine, my advice to anyone that wants to head in the right direction is to look inward. My personal paraphrase of Dostoevsky is, “Everyone thinks of changing the world; not everyone thinks of changing himself.” Whatever crusade the rest of Christianity finds themselves on, my personal ambition is to be a follower of Christ. If I trip up or fall in my quest to follow Christ, I want it to be over His sandals because I’m following so closely. I want to live a personal (not private) life for God’s glory. And if anyone is still reading this, I hope you will too.

Boston (42° 21′ , -71° 7′)

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3 Responses

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  1. John C said, on December 17, 2005 at 5.54 am

    I don’t know how you arrived at such opinions, but they almost exactly mirror my own. Thanks for writing down your thoughts on this matter. Now I don’t have to.

  2. nathan said, on December 17, 2005 at 2.14 pm

    Thanks Dad. You know what they say about great minds. I have been going over this idea a lot the last couple of years and especially as I have thought about the role of the church in the world. I think my time spent at all those SBC conventions helped me to formulate my thoughts. Thanks for getting me involved in those kinds of things.

  3. Sharon C said, on December 18, 2005 at 1.08 pm

    I like reading your stuff because your thoughts are so well-expressed. Keep thinking your writing and writing your thinking!


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